Beau Is Afraid is a horror comedy film originally tentatively titled Disappointment Boulevard. To date, this is the most expensive picture in the production of Studio A24 and the longest in the filmography of the American director Ari Astaire. The budget of the project, announced in mid-2021 and premiered in April 2023, is $60,000,000. The film runs for 3 hours.
The name Bo – from the word “Beau Is Afraid”
The protagonist of the film is Bo Wasserman, an anxious neurotic suffering from xenophobia and an overgrown “mama’s boy”. According to Bo, the outside world is full of dangers and cruel people who pose a threat to his life. He is afraid to choke in the bathroom, to die during the first sex, not to take pills, go outside and leave the key in the door. A man who is in a difficult psychological state does not leave his home, because he is afraid of everything and everything.
The plot of the film revolves around Bo’s decision to go to his hometown. There, under extremely suspicious circumstances, the mother died, the relationship with which her son was far from ideal. On the way home, he finds himself in absurd situations, encounters all sorts of oddities and horrors. Another man makes a discovery about his past, which gives him a chance to understand the causes of mental health disorders. But even having got rid of the burden of an abusive mother, Bo cannot free himself from the feeling of guilt that was instilled in him as a child. It will never let him go and will not let him overcome his many fears.
The genre of the film
The world in which events unfold is a grotesquely depicted and highly exaggerated reality. This is how a downtrodden and frightened person sees the surrounding reality. Massacre on the streets of a terrible district, suicides jumping from the roof, people walking around naked, maniacs, drug addicts, an aggressive neighbor who blames her mother for “all mortals”. The form of film narration changes depending on what is happening: an absurd comedy of situations, a bloody massacre and horror, in places a wild surreal, or even a fairy tale. The beginning of the tense and horror-filled film narration is similar to the delirium of a madman, which smoothly turns into an adrenaline trip. The black comedy then transforms into a drama about a lost child, an abusive parent, and a co-dependent relationship. The running time of “Beau Is Afraid” ends with a powerful philosophical allegory.
Adventures filmed in the art-house road movie genre are generously seasoned with the hangman’s black humor and go beyond space and time. The hero travels not only from point A to point B, but also wanders through the back streets of his own unconscious. After viewing, the viewer is left with a sad aftertaste and a head full of thoughts. The true meaning of what he saw is revealed in the last half hour and only to those who can read the cultural codes that are scattered by the authors throughout the canvas of the picture.
Filled with hidden meanings
The film is literally brought to a crazy peak and a powerful catharsis by the mixture of symbols, subtexts, images and allegory contained in it. Bo, who at first caused pity, begins to annoy with his passivity, victim behavior and resigned acceptance of any bullying. Then the analogy with the long-suffering Job and the similarity with the literary heroes of Franz Kafka come to mind.
It is not possible to understand and rationally explain the fears of the key character, although some of them are noted by the director very aptly, since they are typical. Many residents of large metropolitan areas are familiar with xenophobia, the fear of becoming a victim of a thief or rapist, anxiety about things left unattended, a feeling of loneliness in the crowd. It turns out that Ari Aster in his film turns the abstract into the concrete. People differ from each other not in character, not in dreams or ambitions. Hidden fears and the ability to overcome them make us different.
In essence, the story of Beau Wasserman is an example of an average person living in a cocoon of worries and doubts. You can get out of it if you step over your fear. But the main character is afraid of this. The film does not attempt to comprehend the inexplicable or reach the irrational. He shows what Bo’s life might look like if it weren’t for self-abasement, pathological anxiety, and phobias. You just need to try to overcome “Beau Is Afraid”
Guiding idea of the screenwriter and director
Globally, the movie from Ari Astaire can be considered as a guide for beginning psychologists. Here and everyday disgust, and social impotence, and emotional abuse, and the cruelty of human nature, and the Oedipus complex, and deformations of good intentions, and the impact on a person’s future life of childhood emotional trauma. Against this background, the director’s and screenwriter’s guiding idea can be clearly and clearly traced – the love of parents for a child should be unconditional and disinterested: “because you exist.” Children are ruined by any manifestations of “conditional love”, fitting them to their own standards, instilling in them a sense of guilt for wrong actions or inappropriate attitude towards loved ones. Beau’s mother’s behavior erased his identity. He questioned his own masculinity, acquired separation problems, and eventually lost his identity.
Beau Is Afraid is a labyrinth of personal horrors and scares, emotionally reminiscent of a rollercoaster ride. The film is extremely authorial, complex and painful. By the end, it remains unclear whether the main character’s trip to his mother’s funeral was in reality. Or is it all the same Bo’s own fears, which, as you know, have “big eyes”.